Wednesday, 11 September 2013


The Dust Jacket as we know it today is a relatively new idea, first appearing in the late 19th century. Prior to this some books had been issued with a plain wrapper in order to protect often ornate bindings. Later the first true wrappers simply stated the name of the book with no other adornment. With the advent of cheap colour printing in the 1880s/90s however publishers soon realised the value of a medium which could give some visual idea of the enclosed books contents and price. Within a very few years and realising the advertising value of a wrapper. publishers expanded the idea to print  not only a precis of the books contents  and its price but also to advertise lists of other books in their ‘stable’ and of forthcoming titles as well.

Caravan Afloat -Dust wrapper

The First? English Canal Book Wrapper. C.J.Aubertin’s A Caravan Afloat c1916.

Cary John Aubertin’s classic travelogue of a converted horse drawn pontoon’s journey along English canals was not the first English canal book to describe such a journey but it seems to have been one of the first to use photographic illustrations taken by the author and to be issued with a plain printed wrapper (no price & no advertising yet).


‘My Holidays on Inland Waterways’ by Percy Bonthron. First edition 1916.

Published in the same year ‘My Holidays on Inland Waterways’ takes advertising a little further with the books price printed on both the wrapper’s spine & cover, the latter also giving some idea of the contents of the book in written form and by means of 2 colour illustrations.$(KGrHqNHJEgFH8nygt5cBSCnrsqdy!~~60_12

‘The Flower of Gloucester’  Third Edition. 1918.

Publishers found too, that sales of cheap unillustrated editions of best selling  books could be further enhanced if the otherwise plain volume which gave no idea of the books contents was issued with a colourful wrapper. So with canal books we find that by 1918 the publishers Chapman & Hall had progressed to using a 3 or 4 colour wrapper on their cheap unillustrated edition of Temple Thurston’s classic.

Copies of most editions of Bonthron & Temple Thurston’s books can be readily found in 1st & later editions. A Caravan Afloat is harder but not impossible to find in its first and only edition, although a facsimile paperback was issued in 1981 by Shepperton Swan.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for copies with dust wrappers. My Holidays……. occasionally turns up with the battered remnants of a wrapper.clinging to it. Thurston’s book in first edition (1911) has a green cloth binding with a beautiful illustration of a narrow boat stamped in gilt on the cover.The second edition in a grey cloth binding has the same illustration in black on the cover but I have never seen either of these editions with a wrapper, so can only assume that they were issued without. It is the third cheap edition that has the wrapper but it is uncommon.

Rarer still and in over 40 years of collecting and buying and selling Aubertin’s book I have only ever come across it once on the copy in my own collection. In conclusion – Please let me know if you have earlier canal books with a  wrapper or indeed if you have any of the above editions with wrappers. My comments are obviously based on my own collecting history and observations and I would love to be proved wrong.

When it comes to Children’s canal literature – the first wrapper that I have found is on a 1933 copy of Theodora Wilson’s ‘Jims Children –A tale of Town, Country & Canal ’  which was first published in 1912 and set on the Lancaster canal. Intriguingly this fairly drab single colour wrapper covers a colourful 2 or 3 colour embossed Illustrated cover. Jims ChildrenJims Children (3)

Childrens book wrapper & embossed illustrated cover from 1933.Jims Children (2)

Title page & frontispiece.

Also from 1933 Mark Harborough’s  ‘Fossil the Scout’  is probably the first children’s canal book published in the UK  to have a wrapper.on its first edition.

Fossil the scout DustwrapperFossil the scout 2048

Wrapper & one of the lllustrations from the book.

No comments: